- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Shoulda, coulda, woulda is back and still looking at the Michigan offense. It was an offense that seemed full of potential, but had far too many shortcomings to ever be great. But from a silver lining perspective, tight end Jake Butt’s was this season’s breakout star. From early enrolling last year and being too skinny to play -- and with an expected redshirt year ahead of him -- to this season, being the third-leading receiver, he has made quite the surprising jump. So here is what shoulda, coulda and woulda happened with this frosh.
Shoulda … got Butt more involved in the pass game earlier in the season. Yes, he came in to the tight end position to really free up Devin Funchess to get more looks in the air, but Butt proved throughout the season that his hands were effective and relatively reliable. In several situations this season, quick, short passes would’ve done wonders for Michigan, but the Wolverines just didn’t throw them. They could’ve and should’ve thrown those to Butt. Through the first eight games he had only accounted for seven catches for 67 yards. But through the final four games of the season he tallied 10 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. That’s more than doubling his catches per game average and his yards per catch jumped from 9.6 to 13.5 from the first eight games of the season to games nine through 12.
Coulda … Had another threat for opponents to game plan against. At times, teams sent pressure at will because they knew it was a bomb pass or nothing from the Michigan offense. Having a multitalented player like Butt, however, helps a little bit to keep defenses on their toes. With Butt on the field, Michigan had more of a complete tight end. Funchess wasn’t much of a blocker. AJ Williams wasn’t much of a catcher. Butt could’ve done both for this team far more often than he did. What would teams have done to game plan against Butt if he had been a bigger threat throughout the season? His confidence grew alongside his playing time and experience. He made Michigan’s offense more dangerous, but the coaches didn’t utilize him quickly enough.
Woulda … Been more competitive against Michigan State and Iowa. I’m not saying that they would’ve won in either game, but short, quick passes to someone like Butt could’ve been effective in both of those games and he went without a catch against both teams. Against Ohio State, Butt caught five passes for 85 yards. If he had been targeted like he was in that game more often through the season (and obviously they couldn’t do that super early because he was still learning), the offense would’ve been much more threatening. If the Buckeyes couldn’t find an answer to that, Iowa and Nebraska probably wouldn’t have either.